(Illustration by Pure Imagination/iStock by Getty Images)

 Corporations across industry are scrambling for solutions to perhaps the most pressing need in today’s business climate: effective employeeretention. So far, they’re seeing mixed results at best.

“Traditional tactics, things like company-wide pulse surveys [of employees], company-wide recognition programs, these things don’t appear to be working,” said Dave Novak, senior talent strategy consultant at SmartRecruiters, which makes talent-acquisition software. “Employers are really going to have to be a lot more creative when it comes to retaining their employees, and a one-size-fits-all solution, typically, is not working over the last year and a half.”

Novak, a longtime recruiter, said in a presentation at a From Day One virtual conference on recruiting skilled talent in 2022 that he believes the key to better retention is a well-resourced, mindfully executed internal- mobility strategy that focuses on opportunities for individual workers to pursue their career goals.

The reasons employees tend to stay with a company, Novak said, include flexibility and autonomy, a connective tissue between the worker’s role and company values, and fair compensation that’s competitive with the open job market. A final factor is career opportunities, which Novak supported with data suggested that three-quarters of promoted employees are retained through their third work anniversary.

If a worker is not recognizing career opportunities within the organization they are already a part of, at the moment they can very easily realize them elsewhere. “Those employers that have that infrastructure to be able to allow employees to move around–and move up in the organization quickly and with a good experience–are the ones that are doing a better job of retaining their talent,” Novak said.

His research indicates that employers should focus on individual departments—particularly those that are small but highly productive and valuable—and “do a lot of discovery” to find out “what factors are important to them.”

Dave Novak, senior talent strategy consultant at SmartRecruiters (Company photo)

Novak suggested a “differentiated internal-mobility program,” whose hallmarks are “dedicated talent resources,” “visibility for less restrictiveness,” and “an internal job ‘marketplace.’” This translates into having somebody or a team of folks dedicated to internal-mobility programming, doing away with requirements that demand a worker spend a certain amount of time in a role before being promoted—if they’re generally qualified, they should be considered right away—and actively recruit internally.

The differentiated internal mobility program, of course, might look a little different from company to company. To some degree, it’s built on the wants of workers, and should be customized. However, an effective one will result in less time spent filling roles. Recruitment can be more heavily focused on entry-level positions, and institutional knowledge will remain in the company. There will also be a closer binding together of talent and business decisions, and the company will save money in recruitment costs, Novak said.

While strong retention can come down to the amiability of a corporation’s culture, with no single person responsible for its cultivation, Novak said there are individuals and teams who need to take charge of a company’s retention efforts. The first is direct managers, who Novak called the “primary conduit” for an internal mobility strategy. This is the point person who can most directly communicate to workers the company’s efforts toward retention. The talent organization “builds the infrastructure that creates opportunities for talent,” Novak said, while the total-rewards group “builds an internal rewards program that competes with the external market.” Executives, finally, have to support the other three groups in their mission.

Ultimately, Novak said, “It takes a village” to keep the most talented employees: Managers working together to carry out the internal-mobility efforts, finding out exactly where workers want to go, and helping them get there.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, SmartRecruiters, who sponsored this Thought Leadership Spotlight.

Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at MichaelStahlWrites.com, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.